XPG Insights

Staffing industry recruiting news, advice and thought leadership.

XPG Insights

Staffing industry recruiting news, advice and thought leadership.

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XPG Recruit Athlete: Breakout Talent May Surprise You

In case you missed it: A guy nobody pegged for a starter in the NFL, a guy who was drafted dead last in the 2022 draft, just as the janitors were sweeping up the confetti, started his first NFL game on Sunday, December 11. And now everyone is talking about him. He was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the seventh round with the 262nd overall pick. The snarky name for the last player drafted each year is “Mr. Irrelevant,” a moniker coined in 1976 when former USC and NFL receiver Paul Salata started announcing the final pick of each NFL Draft.  

Brock Purdy, who most recently led the Iowa State Cyclones as a three-time All Big-12 quarterback, holding 32 school records, moved from third string to second string when starter Trey Lance (a 1st Round, 3rd Overall, 2021 draft pick) went down for the season in Week 2. Purdy came in off the bench after backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo broke a bone in his foot December 4. A very good 49ers team was having very bad luck.  

No one expected much from a rookie called to action in the middle of a game. 

But the rookie threw his first NFL touchdown pass on his first drive, hitting fullback Kyle Juszczyk for a 4-yard score. He finished 25-of-37 for 210 yards and two scores with an interception for a passer rating of 88.8. The 49ers beat Miami 33-17. 

But Purdy was just getting started. Up next: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, led by legendary quarterback Tom Brady. Brady holds many NFL quarterback records, and his nickname is the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time). Brady has played NFL football for about as long as Brock Purdy has been alive. (Purdy was born in 1999; Tom Brady was drafted in 2000.)  

This was a very tough assignment for a rookie. No one expected much. In fact, Fox Sports analyst Greg Cosell gave a reality check comment to temper everyone’s excitement. “Look, there’s a reason he was the last pick in the draft,” he said. “…he was not seen as a good prospect.” 

Maybe. But that’s why they play the game. 

Purdy delivered a standout performance in his second game and first NFL start. He threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score, and San Francisco’s vaunted defense helped deliver a decisive 35-7 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Mr. Irrelevant 1, The GOAT 0.  

Purdy’s current record as a starter is 4-0 with a passer rating of 101.4. 

Our point is that talent is intangible, much as we try to quantify it. That’s why our recruiters specialize in working with athletes. We know they have the grit, determination, and competitive spirit to rise to any occasion. They know they have the ability to succeed if they get their break.  

We’ve written about Canadian Joëlle d’Entremont, a college soccer player who has gone on to a career in staffing. One of the most impactful moments of her soccer career came early when she was cut from the Nova Scotia Provincial Team at 14. She was devastated, but instead of giving up, she went to the coaches who cut her for some tough love. Their feedback (and her determination to work on the issues they brought up) put her back on the team and built character that has carried over into her business career.  

Brock Purdy credits honest, even tough, feedback from coaches for much of his success. He says that the only way any athlete gets better is to listen to coaches and work on what they say. “I’m not a guy with my wall up, where you can’t tell me anything I don’t come to on my own.”  

We know from working with athletes through our XPG Recruit Athlete division that coachability is often as important as talent. Raw talent is a great start; experience helps build confidence and develops skills. But coachability is crucial to success, especially at the beginning of a career, in sports or in business. Fortunately, it’s also something you can explore in an interview. Ask candidates about a time they made a mistake and how their manager approached them. Ask what happened after that conversation. Ask about how they correct course when a project or a relationship goes sour and how they feel about failure. You’ll learn a lot about how they’ll perform for you under pressure and what kind of teammate they’ll be. 

Brock Purdy may have been drafted dead last into the NFL, but his story proves that talent is only part of the equation for success. If teams were prioritizing grit and coachability, Purdy would have been drafted much higher.  

How could you adjust your priorities in your search for talent?  You could start by asking us what athletes we currently have on our “roster” who would like to begin working for you in sales or as a recruiter…  

XPG Recruit Athlete: Not Done Winning®